Special Day and New Video!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished our Sunday Service here at camp after another perfect GV day.  On Sunday’s we have Staff Rec which is when our staff gets together to socialize and share some food.  We hold it in two sessions so there is always 1 staff member left in the camper cabins.  This is a great way to keep our troops happy, give them some free time with just adults and eat some really good food.  They deserve it because they spend 24 / 7 with your children.

It’s been a great weekend and we held our Special Day today with morning and afternoon session of Big Board/Video Games.  This morning at breakfast we were visited by several video game celebrities all of whom I may have heard of but the children instantly knew which characters were in the morning skit that described their upcoming day.  Half of camp went through several water oriented games in the morning and the other half switched this afternoon.   Campers traveled with their cabin mates and I think there were at least 12 or 13 different stations that challenged everyone.  There were two giant Jenga games as well as Angry Birds, Ninja Cricket and many that tested our brains as well as our bold athletic ability (like jumping off the side of the Titanic into the cold North Sea)(you have to use your imagination).

It was such a fun day and the campers loved the fact that it was in a GV way kind of competitive with other cabins and everyone was so supportive no matter how you did at the stations.  Counselors were a part of all stations as well as cheering when things got challenging.  It’s hard to describe and give you feeling of a total camp day with everyone involved.  Many times it’s so spontaneous and you can’t  capture the magic in words, pictures, or on video.

I’ve been talking this past week about outdoor play.  Our play increases children’s physical activity level and we certainly did that today. Children who play outdoors are more likely to be active learners. Children who move and play when out of school are ready for the attention often needed for classroom learning. Time spent outdoors increases persistence. Outdoor games often require persistence. Children must try and try again if their experiment fails. If the branch doesn’t reach all the way across the stream or the bark doesn’t cover their fairy house, they must keep trying until they are successful. Persistence and resilience were certainly present today. And…. outdoor play is fun. Children who are happy are successful learners. Children are naturally happy when they are moving, playing and creating outside. This joy opens them up for experimenting, learning and growing.  We are playing outside and growing inside at GV.  Stay tuned!

PS – Click on this short video glimpse of the session so far, from the eyes of our videographer.  Just the  tip of the iceberg.

D Session Highlights Part 1

Everyday at Gwynn Valley feels like the Weekend

Dear Camper Families and Friends,

It was another beautiful, sunny day here at Gwynn Valley! The weather has been really warm, which makes for great swimming. We caught the edge of a thunderstorm this afternoon just after rest hour, but after about 5 minutes of rain, the sun returned to it’s throne in the sky above Gwynn Valley. We eat well every day, but the food today was exceptional. For breakfast we enjoyed scratch-made zucchini bread, fresh melon, yogurt, sausage, and cereal. At lunch we had baked potatoes, chili, broccoli, and all the best potato toppings. At dinner enjoyed BBQ that was smoked in our smoker (Lucile) for over 24 hours, coleslaw, butter beans, cornbread, and corn. To top it all off we finished dinner with some delicious banana pudding!

Today marks a definitive half way point in D session; just before lunch we finished up  our last Morning Discoveries! At the start of the session, each camper chooses 4 activities to return to 3 times over the course of the 1st week of camp. This repetition allows campers to get involved in more intricate projects like weaving a table runner or throwing, trimming, and glazing a piece of pottery. This structure also allows for more targeted skill development and a progression of skills over multiple sessions in areas such as mountain biking or stand up paddle boards. Though our discoveries are over, we will continue to see the fruits of those classes over the next week. Our musical cast will perform their original work on Monday evening. Our adventure activities (Kayaking, Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking and Camping Skills & Nature) will go on off camp trips to the Lower Green and French Broad Rivers, DuPont State Park and Pisgah National Forest on Monday, Tuesday & Thursday of next week. Sign ups this afternoon were abuzz with sessions for those who are interested in participating in next week’s off camp trips. More on those next week as the trips unfold…

Mountainside went on their last Mini-Adventure today. As of this evening, all 40 mountainsiders have had the opportunity to sample all of the trip options (white water canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and pioneering). Tomorrow, the Mountainside campers will submit their preference forms and the magical sorting machine (also known as the Mountainside Head Counselor and Logsitics Team) will sort everyone’s preferences and adventure placements will bee announced on Monday. Everyone is excited to meet their fellow adventurers! During the 3rd week of MS3, which overlaps with Main Camp’s E session, Mountainside campers will head their separate ways for 4 days and 3 nights of wilderness fun.

Riverside is also back in camp! We love having our elusive Riversiders in camp for a few days. It is so fun for our younger campers to catch a glimpse of these adventurous campers in between days spent out of camp. Riverside campers enjoyed a morning of playing Thicket, which helps them develop their skills of observation in a natural setting. This afternoon, Riverside spent a few hours canoeing on the lake in preparation for the 4 day trip they will be taking next week. Monday will mark the first of four days canoeing on the Lower Green, French Broad, Tuckaseegee and Nanatahala Rivers.

This evening we had lots of little evening programs all over camp. Hillside cabins went to the lodge for Mountain Dancing with Debbie followed by a few Tajar Tales to wind down the evening. Brookside met up with Mountainside for our Mountainside Visit. This is an opportunity for Brookside campers to learn about all the myths and mysteries of the Mountainside program. What do your cabins look like? What are mini-adventures? Where is the Moutainside Lodge exactly? What happens if you’re not a very good biker? Who is Proud Mary?  All this and more plus lots of games and songs around the campfire up on the Mountainside Green. It was a fun evening for both the Brooksiders who learned about a new program and the Mountainsiders who stepped into the role of leader and teacher. Riverside enjoyed a little taste of main camp; they made ceramic creations in the Pot Shop.

Watching the sunset over the blue ridge mountains this evening was a reminder that we are truly living a charmed life here at Gwynn Valley. We work hard, but when you have as much fun at work as we do, every day sort of feels like the weekend. There were many adventures today and many more to come over the following days, but for now the serenaders have finished their rounds and the lightning bugs are telling me that it’s time for bed at Gwynn Valley.


Just the Right Amount of Rain!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We have had a beautiful and action packed day here in the Valley! The weather was sunny and warm until late afternoon when it rained for about 30 minutes and it was cool light drizzle that fell like tiny air conditioners.  Throughout this we had no thunder and lightening.  I was out on the lake with Riverside helping them get ready for their river component starting on Monday.  We stayed in our boats throughout the rain and at one point capsized to teach boat rescue.  The water temperature was actually warmer than the air temp.  Everyone was getting tired of drills and learning strokes so we paddled boats back in and put them up for a swim.  Ask your Riversider about the “GV Plunge”.  It’s a fun water thing I’ve done with campers for years.

Moving backwards, breakfast was homemade scones along with cereal and fruit.  Our baker’s are incredible.  We also had homemade bread for dinner tonight along with meatloaf, green beans, and salad.  Dessert came later which is another story.

After breakfast, we began the last morning of A-Day Discoveries on Main Camp. For campers, this means a day of wrapping up projects and polishing skills in half of the discoveries they have chosen for the session. For some program areas, the lesson was totally wrapped up today. For example, weavers took their finished projects off the loom and tied them off, potters were working on glazing their wares and most craft projects were coming to fruition.  B day will come tomorrow for the two other activities that campers have on alternate days.  Those who are part of the Fine Arts production will share their hard work with the rest of camp next week. For those who are in outdoor adventure Discoveries such as biking, climbing, white water kayaks, and camping skills and nature, there will be off camp trip opportunities all next week.

I spent the morning working with a few campers on Mountainside in a primitive woodworking project.  Each camper is making a stool to take home.  The tops, which we cut today with a very large saw (human powered), will attach to 4 legs that are taking shape utilizing  shave horses and drawknives to create the legs for the stool.  The tops are white pine and the legs are red oak taken right from the property and split by hand to get to this point.  The pieces are mostly made with hand tools except for the holes for the legs which are 1.5 inches and drilled out with an electric drill and spade bit.  Even older campers would have trouble with a brace and bit keeping the angles right and drilling through the wood.  Last sessions finished project turned out great and campers this session are doing an excellent job.  Other Mountainsider’s had sign-ups today in a number of activities from sports to crafts and then spent time with their cabin in the afternoon.

After dinner tonight over half of our staff slowly left the dining room unnoticed and began to hide in various places around camp.  One counselor from each cabin stayed back to be with the children and try to locate all the cabin counselors and activity leaders.  It was a giant game of hide and seek and each staff member was worth points.  The campers had to find everyone to get dessert that had been stolen by the Tajar.  Of course they did find all involved and some weren’t easily found.  The whole camp had oatmeal chocolate chip cookies out on the green.  It was a cool pleasant time for everyone.  By the time we ended the game it was getting close to dark and time for the young Hillsider’s to head out to dreamland.

It’s been another great day here at GV.  I love the fact that our Mountainsider’s and Riversider’s get in there and play Hide and Seek with our youngest campers.  It’s done in our outdoor world where nature is available to surprise and delight.  Stated in a recent Patagonia catalogue, “The world often expects children to put aside childish ways in favor of preparing for the future.”  Here at camp we know that play is an important element in preparing children for the future.  We as adults should play more often as well.  Hope you got some play in today.  Tomorrow is another day of opportunity.  Stay tuned!

Camp Is All About the Simple Joys!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Our day started much like the past few days with a cool morning followed by a warm but beautiful day with a breeze blowing  all day long.  Thank goodness for the breeze.  It wasn’t quite as hot as it has been, but it was warm.  The next two days look good for about anything with some possible showers to cool things off.  As we finished campfire this evening it began to sprinkle and felt so good.  Brookside joined us in the Lodge tonight to do some ole fashioned Mountain Dancing.  Debbie played the 88’s and I called most of the dances.  We started off with a couple of folk dances – one from Russia called “Sasha” and the other, a Jewish folk dance called the “Hora”.  Both were fun and it didn’t take the campers long to catch on.   We danced to “Going to Kentucky, Paddie Cake Polka, and the Virginia Reel”. On the last dance Jordan, our Brookside head counselor led everyone out of the Lodge into the coolness of the evening on the Green.  It was a nice way to end the evening as Debbie played “Sheep May Safely Graze” which has been played at the end of every campfire for many, many years.  It’s a long tradition here at camp and for those that stay for our closing day campfire Debbie will play it after the staff song at the end of that campfire.

Tree climbing was a great place to be this morning as the temperature went up.  Under our hemlocks next to the lake is always a cool and refreshing place to learn the “ropes” as well have fun and check out the great views from the top of our trees.  We started tree climbing the year we took over camp and it has been a hit since then.  It’s very different from climbing a wall or even a rock.  Works off the same principles of rock climbing so all safety protocols and equipment are the same.  The climber starts on a rope ladder and about 15 feet up begins to use the many branches that the Hemlock affords. As you may or may not know most of our Hemlocks in the southeast are dying because of an insect called the Wooly Adelgid.  They have wrought havoc on the trees and we’re doing what we can to treat many of ours in camp proper.  So far so good and think we’ll be able to keep the ones that are important to inner camp (about 40 + trees).

I checked in on “linoleum cuts” this morning as they were working on their projects.  It’s takes a lot of patience, focus and time to make the cut outs for the final prints that will be created.  Across the way from our Yanderside craft area the Mill was deboning the fish that they caught yesterday and we’ll have lots of fish for a meal or part of a meal soon.  This afternoon the Mill made ice cream and I don’t even know what flavor it was.  There’s always a line to sign up for ice cream.  It’s frankly a no brainer if your cabin is first to sign up.  Everyone moves to the top of list sooner or later.  Campers participating in whitewater kayaking are getting ready for a river trip next week as are those campers who are climbers in Main Camp.  Both groups will be out next week and it should prove to be a fun and challenging day as they take on different environs for their sports.  Mountain bikers will be testing themselves in Dupont State Forest that same day.

The coolest and best parts of camp for the week have centered around our water sports, being at the lake, SUP Boarding, kayaking, creek hiking, and swimming.  The “Watermat” produces the most noise in camp and each day you can tell when there’s a group on the lake using it.  There’s never a dull moment as campers run, slide, and jump off of all sides.  You can easily get a whole cabin on it without it sinking.  Several cabins have taken tubing trips as did Possum Manor today just after rest hour.  It’s a great way for a little cabin bonding.  Others will take a hike to swim at Connestee Falls or possibly hike to “The Rock” where you see for miles.  Camp life really starts in the cabin and works outward.  That’s one reason we hold what we call “Open House” in each cabin every session.  That’s when a leadership team member and an activity leader visit the cabins to meet with just the campers.  It’s a great way to ensure that your child’s experience in the cabin is a good one and to make sure that the counselors are doing a good job.  We visit with the cabin for about a half an hour and talk about a lot of things; their counselors, what they are looking forward to, favorite activities, how they are getting along and many others.  It provides good insight into their cabin life and how it’s going.

There are lots of checks and balances at camp.  We have lists, roles, check ins, meeting spots, roll calls, buddy systems, and other ways of supervision and guidance during our busy days.  The structure is never heavy, but underpins the organized chaos that camp is.  With that organized chaos should come fun, learning and many chances to build relationships throughout the camp experience.  It’s life outdoors, without screen time and the focus is on the “simple joys of childhood”.   We could all use that, so stay tuned!

Twilight Play and Alternative Fishing!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Our day was sunny, bright and warm but with our shade, water activities and fun quotient it was a terrific day here at GV.   Tonight was Twilight Play where there was no campfire or other evening program so we played hard after dinner until about 8:30.  We also held a giant picnic for the whole camp.  Our kitchen staff has worked all summer long and made unbelievable food so they all got together tonight away from camp and enjoyed some comradery outside of the workplace.  The Mac and Cheese today at lunch was over the top good.   We’re into the meat of our session now after having our second full day of Discovery activities.  At our table I asked who experienced something brand new today and most responded to that with: creek hiking, wet exit in a kayak with a skirt on, tree climbing, weaving on the looms, etc.  I also asked what they were most looking forward to in the week ahead: their campout, rock climbing trip out of camp, Tajar ball, tie-dye, and more.  There is always something to look forward to at camp.  Each cabin usually keeps a calendar of events so the children know what’s coming up in camp.  There’s a good bit on our schedule each day and every day has a significant event for someone or sometimes for everyone.  Tomorrow night is Mountain Dancing for part of camp and is a camper favorite.  We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.

Fishing was the big news at the Mill today and it was not the traditional kind you would guess.  Near the end of the summer we empty our pond of all the picky eaters who only eat trout food and won’t bite a hook or worm.  So….. we starting releasing the water from the pond and let the children in with their bathing suits on to try and catch the remaining fish with dip nets or by hand.  In less than a minute the water is totally muddy and you couldn’t see anything an inch down.  It takes a while but they catch them all and it’s a mudfest down to last trout standing/swimming.   I think they caught about 40 fish and had a lot of fun in doing so.  By the end, everyone was ready to jump in the lake and wash the muddy water off.  These fish will be added to the others the campers have caught this session and at some point maybe next week we’ll have ourselves a fish fry, complete with corn meal from the Mill and vegis from the farm.  You guessed it, the entire meal comes from camp.

On my travels today, I stopped by the Bong Tree to see Batik.  There were a plethora of colors being used to go back over previously dyed material.  Batik is almost a reverse process when working toward the final product.  I’ve only watched and it looks fun as you progress with wax, colors, design and the steps of each.

On the sports scene we played in the shade this afternoon and went with an overall camp favorite of Thunderball.  We started playing Thunderball about 6 years ago here at camp.  It’s a game that came over from Israel and is a form of dodge ball with the exception that you don’t actually pick the ball up and throw it.  You slap it with your hand or fist and try to get others out by hitting their legs from the knees down.  Sometime I think there are campers that would play all day long and never tire of this game.  Of course our other most popular game here is soccer.  There’s rarely a day that goes by where there’s not a bit of fotball that’s played. Archery is another sport at camp that’s very popular.  Our sports crew have done a good job of teaching it this year.  It’s like Thunderball in its appeal to children.  On the waterfront our stand up paddle boards came out today and we attached a Go Pro camera to several of them.  I’m hoping the footage turned out well.

Our newest things to camp are the Swurfer Swing, the Rope Swing, and 9 Square in the Air.  All three are crowd pleasers.  The Swurfer was invented in Charleston and I saw one at a camp home show last year and knew it would be a hit at camp.  You stand on it instead of sitting.  We’ve been trying to add a rope swing to the lake for some time and this year attached it to our zip line which was previously attached to a tree on the waterfront point.  I learned about 9 Square at a national conference and played for a couple of hours inside a hotel ball room with all adults.  It’s fast moving fun for all ages.

As stated above, there is always something new for campers every day.  It’s akin to going to your favorite candy store and picking just what candy you want to sample today.  This candy is actually good for you and makes you smarter, stronger, more agile, eager, resilient, and most of all it’s fun.  You also get to share with your friends.   Our outdoor play is mostly structured and it’s so much fun to play outdoors all day, sleep under the stars as many cabins are doing this evening and even eat outside for our picnic.  It’s just good for the body and soul.

Outdoor play increases attention span. Often children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks or sitting still for long periods of times are significantly more successful after time spent outside. Outdoor play is imaginative. Because there are no labels, no pre-conceived ideas and fewer rules, children must create the world around them. In this type of play, children use their imagination in ways they don’t when playing inside. We’re playing outside and growing inside here at Gwynn Valley! Stay tuned!

International Day and the Sunny Side of Camp!

Dear Parents & Friends,

“Another day of opportunity at camp” theme fits right into our European Day here at GV.  It was International Day here at camp celebrating Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine.  The whole day was mixed with good food, visits by reigning monarchy on horseback and a wonderful evening campfire that included many campers dancing, singing and being in skits.  Our international staff did a great job giving us a first-hand look at so many aspects of their country which lasted all day long.

Every Tuesday is International Day here at Camp so we get to know a lot about the countries that many of our staff and children come from over the summer.  It’s a great way to learn about a country’s customs, food, songs, stories and general facts.  I think it’s also a great addition to our program to have someone in your cabin who may speak a different language or doesn’t come from our country.  Camp is the kind of place that brings people together.  It’s an even playing field for campers and staff alike.  Our staff grow very close after working together for over 10 weeks.  Campers do the same and some camp friends stay friends the rest of their lives.

Campers were on their B Day of Discovery this morning and taking two brand new activities.  I wonder how many folks were trying out things they have never done before. Our cool morning turned into another hot day.  I went up to mountainside to help with a little woodworking project and was soaked through even while working in the shade.  Our waterfront program has been a great place to be the last couple of days and everyone has been enjoying kayaking, swimming, and SUP boarding on the lake.  This afternoon brought a good size thunder/rain storm and kept us in the Lodge until about 3:30.  Rest hour was quite active in the Lodge and everyone was ready to get out and play.  We rely on our Thor Guard lightening detector which provides a camp wide alarm when it’s not safe to be outside.  When it clears we are safe to re-enter into activities.

I went up and joined the Chipmunks while they tie-dyed their T shirts late this afternoon.  On the way back I heard they were making peach ice cream at the Mill and got there about the time that it was unveiled by our Miller, Cathy.  I only tried a little, but it was delicious.  I’m sure some of it will be saved for the upcoming Tajar Ball.  After a spoon or two of ice cream I hoofed it up to Pioneer 1 where Gus was teaching the campers how to make Dough Boys or dough wrapped around a stick.  Part of recipe is selecting the proper stick – not too small and not too large.  Gus brought all the raw ingredients and in several quick minutes everyone was standing around the fire roasting their soon to be doughy delicacies.  I think I see a theme coming here.  Go to all the activities that serve food!  I certainly did that on top of all the good food we had for international day.

While we were in the Lodge today I noticed that many of the children began to play games and entertain themselves.  No screens, no counselors leading or telling them what to do.  We call this unstructured free play.  Author and clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison writes, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. It is through unstructured, open-ended creative play that children learn the ways of the world. While playing outside, children explore with all their senses, they witness new life, they create imaginary worlds and they negotiate with each other to create a playful environment.”

Playing outside brings together informal play and formal learning. Children can incorporate concepts they have learned at school in a hands-on way while outdoors. For example, seeing and touching the roots of a tree will bring to life the lesson their teacher taught about how plants get their nutrients. Our Nature and Camping Skills program takes children right to the source of our natural world where you can’t always go in a classroom setting.  Gus is excellent in leading a group through the woods where there’s something around every corner.  For children it’s mysterious, exciting and little scary when  turning over rocks and rotten logs to see what you might find.  I know what you’re thinking parents, what might you find in that case?  Good question and yes, we keep everyone at a safe and healthy distance until we know there are no surprises under those elements of the natural world.  Children are naturally inquisitive and are always wanting to know about identifying snakes and lizards.  We do our best in describing what to look for in a poisonous snake and the types that live in our mountains.  What a teachable moment and that happens all the time at camp.

Even with our rain and thunder today the sun came out after our time in the Lodge.  We learn to respect weather, its power and we take it seriously.  We’re happy as long as it’s not lightening or thundering.  We’ve been fortunate to have very little the last few days.  Stay tuned for more of the sunny side of camp!


Great Day of Program and Going Down That Road to Self Reliance at Camp!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a beautiful and hot day here at camp and we jumped right into Discovery programs this morning.  I visited a lot of program this morning just around the center of camp, which included: biking, climbing, soccer, pottery, the Mill, weaving, batik, camping skills and nature, horseback, and archery.  I enjoy my time out in program because I’m looking for some good video and also checking in on program to see how our campers and staff are doing.

One of my first stops was biking where they were learning to check their bikes over to make sure everything is working properly.  We have a checklist that we go through each period with campers and by the time they’ve been to one or two bike sessions they know what to look for.  It’s fairly simple, but could mean the difference between a fun or not so fun experience.  They were also getting used to braking with hand brakes and shifting in a grassy field that allowed them some incline to pedal and coast on.  They learned the attack position and a bit more but not too much, because we wanted to warm them up and get them ready for the single track experience which includes some uneven ground, rocks and roots.  We provide a taste of this on the skills course which is partially built of wood with some natural challenges. We probably have about 3 miles of single track on camp property and have other wider trails we use as warmup areas.

In pottery they were making their first formed or coil pot.  This is not any easy task in learning to roll the clay out properly and get it even. Every time I go to pottery I want to participate.  It’s rewarding to work with your hands and create something that’s just yours.  They will work on these pieces for the next couple of days, culminating that experience by glazing and having the piece fired in the kiln. Many of our arts and crafts really focus the children on the task at hand.  Weaving is an activity where you have to think about the right pedal to push and keeping the weave tight.  Again, you’re creating your own piece which brings a lot of satisfaction.  These activities are not about instant gratification, which permeates our culture.  I will say that some activities do fall into the quick results category like archery, where you get to see where your arrow lands on the target.  Take that information in and hopefully the next one is a better shot.

And then there’s working with an animal like a horse, which introduces a whole other dynamic and personality.  They are big animals and sometimes have a mind of their own and just want to eat grass or follow their best horse “friend” around the ring.  Learning to control the reins and using slight nuances with your body and legs make all the difference.

All of this builds independence while here at camp.  This sense of independence will give our campers  confidence in what they do and the courage to go out on their own to try new things. Camp is a great place for children of all ages to become more independent. Our new setting they will be in and the new people they will be surrounded by, will help them to speak up for themselves and to make decisions on their own. The sense of independence they develop here at Gwynn Valley will serve them for the rest of their lives.  Following are some ways camp instills independence.

You’re away from home, sometimes for weeks! For a lot of young campers, going to camp is the first time they are away from home. It can be a big adjustment for children. By starting camp at a young age children will be more comfortable being away from home, as they get older. This comfort in new places will allow children to be themselves no matter where they are. It will really benefit them when they are leaving for college or other similar experiences. Your child will feel confident beginning a new experience in a new place.

You’re with new people. Similar to being in a new place, first time campers will also be surrounded by mostly new people, both campers and counselors. We have lots of siblings who come together and also friends, but they will certainly meet new friends.  They will learn how to interact with others in the cabin, at the table and in activities.  Relationships aren’t always easy and they may be faced with people with whom they don’t get along. They will learn that people are different in some ways.  Being able to be civil and respectful of those people will show a sense of maturity. Surrounding yourself with new people helps instill independence because you have to learn how to communicate with others and be confident that you’ll be able to make new friends.

You have to try new activities.  It’s easy to only do activities that you know you are good at, but trying new activities will help you become more independent. For example, if you attend a specialty camp you may get to focus on a skill that you may not be exposed to in a more traditional camp setting. Exposure to our farm and the animals there is a new experience for most campers.  Trying new activities will get you comfortable with trying new things later in life. You will meet new people and have to test yourself with these new activities and while it may be daunting at first, trying new activities will be one of the many stepping stones to help you become a better person.

You have to speak up for yourself.  To be independent, you have to be able to get by on your own. An important part of this is being able to speak up for yourself. As young children, we are dependent on our parents to meet our needs. However, at camp, without their support, you have to be able to ask for things yourself. This will ensure that you have what you need and are taken care of, which is important once you are living on your own.  We do our best to partner with you as parents and on some level hope to provide the same care as you do, but it’s not the same.  It’s been said that one teacher can’t meet the needs of every child.  We have lots of teachers and mentors here.  We must work together to achieve this goal in making great children.

You have to make decisions for yourself.  Learning to make smart decisions is an important part of growing up. We are constantly learning from our mistakes and learning what decisions will give us the best outcome. At camp, without parents there to help, campers have to make decisions on their own. They can be minor things, such as what you should have for dinner; to larger ones like what is the risk of me turning upside down in my kayak.  Being able to make your own decision and to tell the difference between right and wrong is an important aspect of independence. It sets up a belief in yourself that you can trust your instincts.

I’ll get off my soapbox and finish this up.  We see all of this happening each and everyday here at GV.  Everywhere I turn I see this and more developing in our campers.  It’s a good feeling.  Camp does a world of good for children!  Stay tuned!

Opening Day of D, MS3 and RS3!

Dear Parents and Friends,

From my view, opening day for Session D was smooth.  There are always a few kinks here and there but overall we hope you had a pleasant experience.  Our morning was cool and calm and the heat took over about 11AM as planned.  All campers accessed the pool today to cool off and participate in their swim assessment.  We serve an early lunch at 12 on opening day and there’s little time to settle into thinking about home and parents.  After lunch went right into signups and then off to activities.  We hope you are safe and sound wherever your destination.

We just finished our first night of cabin skits and will return tomorrow night to complete all the cabins on Hillside and Brookside.  Our Mountainsider’s and Riversider’s hold their own campfires in their own quarters. Dinner tonight was the traditional first night of pasta and marinara sauce which in most cases, is very child friendly food.  Salad from the garden and fresh broccoli rounded out the meal.  To top things off, each cabin got a giant cookie, and I do mean giant chocolate chip cookie at their table.  It had their cabin name on it written in icing.  After supper we all went to “after supper activities” and there was a great choice of things to do.

Activities open for the afternoon were Pottery, Horses, Sports, the Mill,  Fine Arts, Climbing, Crafts, Tie, Dye, the pool.  Mountainside was playing ice breaker games on their green up in the cove. They play a lot of icebreaker games to get to know one another and start the session off right with some good group bonding.  It was certainly a vocal crowd.  They were having a blast.

Campers also signed up for their Discovery Activities today.  They will take those four activities through Saturday which last for 3 days each and happen every other day just in the morning.  The Discovery activities are as follows: Farm/Mill, Horses, Archery, Climbing (3 types), Soccer, Candles, Weaving, Fine Arts Musical, Basketry, Batik, Printmaking, Stand up Paddle boards, Creek Hiking, Junior Life Guarding, Camping Skills and Nature, Mountain Biking, Pottery (2 types), Outdoor Living Skills, and Whitewater Kayaking. The afternoon has 2 more hours of activities that provide campers with a variety of sign-ups each day.  These can be 1 or 2 hour activities and there’s no limit to the possibilities.  Staff can provide a one time activity or several of the same over the week. This should be a great week as the session begins.

Riverside leaves tomorrow for their climbing trip and they are going to Foster Falls in TN.  They’ll be gone through Thurs. of this week.   Mountainside begins their mini-adventures tomorrow and will be in and out of camp as they sample each adventure.  As the session progresses, we’ll have more and more trips out for all three programs including Main Camp.  We look forward to reporting on those and hopefully will have some photos up.

Last night the whole staff met for our campfire before we started D, Mountainside and Riverside sessions.   We told our staff that these campers have been waiting to come to camp all summer.  Our goals are being met through their work of providing the following aspects that define Gwynn Valley and it’s program:

Camp has been a safe and supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships.

It’s a place where we’re unplugged and focused on collaborative living in our groups of cabin, table, and program communities.

We’re providing parenting on a different level, with structure and support as they gain hard and soft skills each day. We aspire to partner with you and carry on your work. 

We’re helping the campers reconnect to the natural world where they are participating in human powered activities.

And last but not least, we’re allowing them to relax and just be kids or as we say at GV, “the simple joys of childhood”.

Can you think of a better way to spend 13 days or three weeks.  Stay tuned!

PS   For those who might be reading this from last session, I’ve just gotten a copy of the Johnny Cakes recipe.  Here it is:

Gwynn Valley Johnny Cakes

3 eggs

1 ⅓  cups milk

⅓  cup oil

2 cups Gwynn Valley Cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

¾  cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

  • Mix well and cook on a medium hot griddle until golden brown on both sides.

C, C-2 Closing and Thank You!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our C, C-2 Session today. We’ve had a wonderful time with your children and hope they will have great memories of their experiences with us.  Soon you will receive a link to an evaluation that we are hoping you will participate in.   We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.

For those of you that have arrived home we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be. We know you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and that the camp experience will become a special part of their summer.  Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for sharing your children. Hope to see you next year!

PS   Here’s a video we showed the children at our final campfire last night.

C-2 Highlight Reel

Spirits Soared On Our Last Full Day of C, C-2!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished our Friendship Campfire for Session C, C-2.  What a great time we’ve had tonight and all day long as well.  At campfire we honored the campers who have many years of Gwynn Valley summers.  As a tradition at our final campfire we honor those who are coming for their 4th and 5th year with a blanket for the 4th year and a wooden plaque for their 5th year.  We also honor those staff, SIT’s and campers who’ve gone beyond the 5 year mark.  It’s always fun to have them stand and be recognized.  With our young leaders program beginning this year, we’re hosting some campers who have been here for 10 years.  That’s a long time and doesn’t include Day Camp years but overnight camp only.  Several drama groups performed skits they had written which were all fun.  We watched a short video and saw photos from the session near the end after our Fine Arts group performed.  Debbie finished off the evening playing, “Sheep May Safely Graze”, which has been a part of campfire for many, many years.  It’s a beautiful song and if you linger after the end of our Closing Campfire you’ll hear it.  It comes after the staff sing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You”. Hope you’ll linger and listen and then join us for lunch with most of that meal coming from our farm.

Looking back to an earlier part of our day the Main Camp Kayakers had a grand time on the French Broad.  The campers did a great job and earned their river fins today.  Other trips out today included hikers to Pisgah National Forest and the climbers went to the Nose of Looking Glass Rock which is probably the most famous climb there.  It’s a good feeling coming back to camp after such a successful day.  Our bikers also rode the trails of Dupont State Forest ending on Ridgeline Trail which is a roller coaster of fun.  One of our bikers celebrated her birthday out on the trail today and exclaimed it was the best birthday ever.  There were some tired puppies when these trips returned.  A couple of the groups had a 7:30 breakfast to get out early and then hiked, biked and paddled through the morning and early afternoon.  Groups made it back for afternoon swims at the pool (pillowcase day) and to finish up packing.

This morning in Main Camp at home we held our last signups for the session and there was lot’s to do.  Campers fed the calves, and dug potatoes and picked corn, which was readied for tomorrow’s lunch here at camp.  Mountainside had their MS Challenge where they bike, climb, canoe and build fires for time.  I’m sure both Riverside and Mountainside got a swim into today.  It was the perfect day for it.  Tonight at dinner we had our usual meal of pizza and of course salad, grape salad and fresh corn.  Brownies also came after pizza and the energy level was high.  There’s nothing better than good food and good friends to makes spirits soar.  As I walked up to start announcements several tables broke into song.  A song which you will hear at tomorrow’s campfire.  We usually don’t sing in the dining room but I couldn’t help but let the spirit rise up from the session and the feelings of many days together.  One first timer to Gwynn Valley at my table tonight said he wished it wouldn’t end and 10 days was not long enough.  I’m sure we will see him and his twin brother back again next summer.

Tomorrow when you arrive your children from C, C-2 will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  We do these each night and check in with campers to find out how their day has been.  It allows staff to see how the children are doing since they only see them at morning wake-up, rest hour, before and after meals and bedtime.  Our days are full and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  After the friendship circle there is our program in the Lodge for parents, friends and campers.  Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 10 days and 3 weeks.  We’ve had a wonderful session and hope to see all of these children back again next summer.  It’s been a great session and a great group of children.  Stay tuned!